How Much Income an Immigrant's Sponsor Needs to Show According to the Poverty Guidelines

Find out how much income and assets the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor will need to show for the foreign spouse's green card application to be approved.

By , J.D. · University of Washington School of Law

Family sponsors of immigrants applying for a U.S. green card (lawful permanent residence) must prove, by preparing an Affidavit of Support, that they can financially support the immigrant as well as their own household at 125% of the dollar amounts shown in the U.S. Poverty Guidelines. These amounts can be found on Form I-864P, published by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Here, we'll discuss how to understand the requirements in that chart.

caution CAUTION

The Poverty Guidelines chart changes yearly. The federal government usually updates it in February or March of each year, and U.S. immigration authorities typically start to follow it two months later. When you attend your visa or green card interview, you will have to meet the guidelines that were in effect on the date your I-864 was submitted.

Why Must U.S. Family of Immigrants Prove Income in This Way?

The purpose of such financial sponsorship is to help demonstrate that the immigrant is not inadmissible to the U.S. as a likely public charge. Realize, however, that U.S. immigration authorities will look beyond the petitioner's sponsorship to the "totality of circumstances" and can declare the immigrant a likely public charge regardless of exact monetary amounts.

Are the Requirements the Same for K-1 Visa Applicants?

Sponsors of K-1 fiancé visa applicants typically do not need to show as much income and resources. (See How Much Income K-1 Fiancé Visa Applicants' Sponsors Need to Show for details.)

Important Step in Calculating Financial Obligation: Add Up How Many People the Sponsor is Supporting

For green card and immigrant visa applications, the sponsor's income and assets must be enough to support all the people who depend financially on the sponsor (also called household members or dependents), at 125% of the income level that the government believes puts a person into poverty. In other words, U.S. immigration authorities will look beyond merely the number of immigrants.

An exception is made for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, who need reach only 100% of the Poverty Guidelines levels when sponsoring someone for a green card.

To count the persons who must be covered, add up the following:

  • the sponsor (also called the petitioner; that is, the person who first filed the I-130 visa petition for the immigrant) or joint sponsor (if the main sponsor's income isn't high enough and the sponsor needs to share responsibility with someone else)
  • the currently entering immigrant or immigrants (if children are also applying)
  • any other immigrants for whom the sponsor has signed a Form I-864, if they are U.S. lawful permanent residents, and the sponsor's spouse, if married
  • all the sponsor's children listed as dependents on the sponsor's federal income tax return
  • any other persons listed as dependents on the sponsor's federal income tax return
  • any siblings, parents, or adult children who live with the sponsor, but only if the sponsor wants or needs to combine income with theirs.

Once you have calculated the number of people who must be covered, refer to the Poverty Guidelines chart. In the far left column ("Sponsor's Household Size"), locate the line showing the number of people for whom the sponsor is responsible. Then look to the appropriate column to find how much the sponsor must show in income and assets.

There are separate charts for sponsors who live in Alaska or Hawaii.

When to Include Financial Assets in the U.S. Sponsor's Calculations

You do not need to declare or prove your ownership of valuable assets if you can meet the Poverty Guidelines levels based on income alone. However, assets (such as savings, houses, or cars) can be a valuable way to fill the gap.

Assets are counted at only one fifth their current market value, or one third if the immigrant is the spouse or child of a U.S. citizen. And you must subtract out any debt liabilities, mortgages, and liens against the asset.

To be used for immigration sponsorship purposes, your assets must be readily convertible into cash (within one year). For example, if the sponsor owns a new condominium in an empty complex that is in bankruptcy, there might not be a market for the place (i.e. no one wants to buy it). USCIS could decide that, even though the sponsor paid a million dollars for the condo, this asset does not count, because it cannot be converted into cash within one year.

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Job offers with anticipated salaries don't count. Someone applying for an immigrant visa from overseas who has received a job offer with a set salary in the U.S. should provide this information in the application process, but realize that it's likely to provide only a little help. U.S. immigration authorities are not allowed to use this salary to make up for a shortfall in the sponsor's ability to meet the Poverty Guidelines minimum.

USCIS also says that income the immigrant earns overseas cannot be counted, since the immigrant probably will not be able to keep such a job after coming to the United States. Finally, any income that the immigrant gained through unauthorized employment in the U.S. (with no legal right or USCIS permission to work) cannot be counted either.

Getting Legal Help

An experienced attorney can assist with the task of figuring out the fastest way for your family to immigrate to the United States, assess any issues with financial support obligations, and help prepare the paperwork and keep the case on track.

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